comparisons between eastern and western cultures

first of all, the goals of social psychology in the self-concept domain mainly focused on divergent patterns between different self-construal. Several studies were constructed on the assumption that individuals identify themselves according to whether within social concepts or not; accounting for personal, relational or collective-selves (brewer & gardner, 1996). According to brewer and gardner (1996), personal self construal refers to uniqueness, autonomous and individual attempts. This group tend to define themselves unrelated to the others and motivated by power, promotion and self-related agencies (see, stapel & van der zee, 2006, for review). Furthermore, they tend to behave based on their inner motives and characterize themselves by traits. On the other hand, relational-self construal adopts a role based identification that refers to relatedness and connections with the significant others at the interpersonal level. This group of people tends to act within an extensive social network and evaluate themselves by the reflections of their relationships. Rather than being motivated by their self-interests, they value security and don’t take social risks (mandel, 2003). Besides, compared with relational self-construal, people with collective self-construal prefer to define themselves as part of a group and act strictly parallel to their group prototype. They are motivated by collective well-fare and evaluate themselves by intergroup comparison (brewer & gardner, 1996, see table 1).

above all, other studies have attempted to explain these notions by ascribing to either western or eastern cross-cultural domains (markus & kitayama, 1999). People in western societies, such as european americans and british, are generalized by individualistic patterns, referring to independent/relational self-construal (morris & peng, 1994). Conversely, people in eastern societies, such as japanese and africans, are indentified by more collectivistic patterns, referring to interdependent self-construal (markus & kitayama, 1999). However, during the past few decades much more information has become available on the domain. It has been realized that these concepts are not only prone to cultural diversities, but also one may display both of them simultaneously depending on the context (trafimow et al. 1991). Namely, rather than being typical, an individual may activate one of them them in case (singelis, 1994). This probability also addressed by cross and madson (1997). Specifically, they argued that big countries, such as united states, are compromised of several cultures. Thus, it is hard to generalize all the people from a highly cosmopolitan society as individualistic; referring to the personal self-construal. Their comparative study revealed that women in united states are tending to be interdependent, rather than individualistic (cross & madson, 1997). Indeed, in the light of baumeister and leary’s (1995) contributions, it has been widely accepted that individuals seek an extended sense of belonging and individualism simultaneously. In other words, as a human being, due to the feelings which are prone to belongingness, individuals describe and evaluate themselves within specific relationships (brewer, 1991).

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in addition, recent studies on bicultural individuals also contradict cultural boundaries. Namely, individuals who exposed to both cultures tend to shift their frames between individualism and collectivism according to the situation (hong, morris, & chiu, 2000). For instance, a study on aborigines and hans in taiwan showed that, aborigines with bicultural backgrounds revealed more independent self-concepts than hans. (hung yu, ching yu, shih-shih, ya-ting, 2010)

on the other hand, those findings have raised the questions about the possibility of the manipulation of self construal in terms of taking the opposite perspective, either individualistic or collectivistic. Up to this point, many tools have been used such as videos that reflect close-relationships, anecdotes & stories and words & pronouns. For instance, gardner, gabriel and lee (1999) primed us and hong kong participants with stories which reflect collectivistic versus individualistic values, respectively. Collectivistic priming data displayed inclination for collectivistic values for both groups, and vice versa. Similarly, with priming adverbs of “we, us, our” for group activation, “i, me, mine” for independence activation were validated by adaval and rashmi (2001). Alternatively, mandel (2003) also primed participants with short videos to manipulate them for a decision making task, and found the same effect. Recently, another tool was tested by zhang & shrum (2009) in terms of impulse-control situations. In their study, participants were instructed to write an essay about either their personal or relational life. After priming condition, each group differed on impulse control rates relatively to the priming conditions. By exerting validation, these methods have been used extensively in the domain of cultural and social studies.

following these further, the goal of this study is to examine whether priming symbols may modulate the deviation between individualistic and collectivistic features of self-construal. Up to this point, one research has already drawn attention to the possibility of using icons as a tool. Namely, briley and wyer (2002) used icons to activate awareness of cultural identity in their study. However, they didn’t aim to compare individuals to shift between self-construal within different backgrounds. Thus, far too little attention has been paid to this possibility. Current study will fill the gap by validating the assumption that one may shift between self-construal according to priming cross-cultural symbols. Symbols will be used to prime participants due to some reasons. First of all, previous approach reveals that among americans, symbols and icons are the most salient cultural stimuli in chinatown (alter, kwan 2009). Moreover, because of the widespread media tools, everything is being increasingly globalized. People are aware of every kind of cultural symbols nowadays. Thus, it can be concluded that mono-cultural individuals may also display both self-construal. Secondly, people perceive symbols very quickly. At this point, it may be useful to select symbols for a cultural comparison due to their vividness among generations over ages. Finally, their meanings are more comprehensive and indirect than texts. Hence, one may expect an early categorization effect on subsequent self-evaluations within subliminal priming conditions. If participants display incongruent self descriptions by shifting the default self-construal depending on the priming symbols, the current hypothesis will be supported. In final consideration, by validating the current thesis, the study will provide a new tool for future research to gain better insight to the components of the self-construal and will contribute to provide a mirror to self-construal within a universal aspect.



60 native east asian, 60 native british participants will be recruited from ucl’s online subject pool and will be paid 5 pounds for their participation. Three priming conditions will be held for each group: namely, individualistic (british & american symbols), collectivistic (asian symbols) and neutral. In each group equal number of participants will be randomly assigned to one of the three priming conditions. As a pre-condition, subjects will be selected on the basis of a degree of homogeneity of their spent years in their home country.


For the priming part of the experiment, three computer games will be formed for each condition. Games will require matching the pairs of the asian (e.g., ying-yang and dragon), british & american (e.g., us flag and superman) or neutral symbols (e.g., apple and book) from a mixed task.

For the second part of the experiment, the twenty statements test (kuhn& mcpartland, 1954) will be used to check priming effects on self-construal. The test consists of 20 lines and requires writing self-descriptions to answer the top question, that is, “who i am?” Or “who you are”.


Each group will be tested in different times. Participants will be invited by phone to come for a pre-test for the main experiment. After participants arrive, each individual will be taken to a cubicle which contains a computer. Before the relevant game task, they will be informed that the aim of the game is to assess their attention capacity and high scores require quick responses and fewer trials. Because of the given goal, rather than evaluating the meanings of the symbols, they will focus on doing their best to have a high score. By this way, participants will be taking it as a part of the main experiment, thus they won’t be aware of the main purpose. After the computer task, each participant will fill the twenty statements test (kuhn& mcpartland, 1954). Before the test, they will be told that the aim of the collecting data is to select the appropriate individuals for the main experiment with parallel their prior game scores. Then, they will describe themselves in twenty statements. After the whole procedure, they will be probed if they thought any connections between the game and description task for concerning a possible awareness. Then, they will be paid and debriefed.


The scores of the games won’t be assessed because of the original aim. The tsts will provide the main effect of the priming manipulation. Statements on the self-description task will be evaluated based on 2 main categories. Responses with a personal attribute, such as psychical descriptions, abilities or attitudes will be coded as independent category. Responses with role descriptions, such as relational engagements or group membership will be coded as interdependent category. Each statement will be marked regarding to its content and marks will be summed for each individual referring to a highly individualistic or collectivistic score. This coding process will be done by two independent raters that are blind to experiment.

Anticipated results

The expected results of the study would that those participants who were primed with cross-cultural symbols will significantly differ from the relevant control groups with the same background on their tst results. A multiple anova with prime type (independent vs. Interdependent vs. Neutral) and culture (asian vs. British) will be used to analyse the proportion of self construal that participants reported on the twenty statement test (tst). Tst scores will be z-transformed and averaged to form a single index. Priming conditions and culture will be contrast coded using -2, 1 & 1 and -1, +1, respectively. The standardization of dependent (tst results) and categorical variables (prime vs. Culture) will allow us to interpret the main and interaction effects. Then, if cross-cultural priming leads shifting between self-construal, then those who primed with incongruent symbols must be significantly different from the other ones who primed with either congruent or neutral symbols (p< .05). That is, participants from asian cultures that primed with british & american symbols would state more individualistic patterns than the asian groups on their statements. On the other side, british participants would state more collectivistic patterns than the relevant control groups. Even more, congruent symbol priming may lead a better access to the self-concept. Thus, it would be surprising to find that those who will be in the congruent-symbol priming condition may also have higher scores than the other group members who were primed with neutral symbols. Evidence for this kind of priming effect on judgements with stories was shown by gardner et al. (1999), but for only european-american participants. They found an interaction effect between self-construal and cultural background. However, implementing the same manipulation tool that gardner and his colleagues (1999) used, a resent research didn't find the same interaction (verplanken, trafimow, khusid, holland & steentjes, 2009). In final consideration, the study will also provide evidence whether primed self-construal may be interacting with cultural background.

Proportion of self-descriptions for the groups as a function of type of prime

Type of prime
Descriptive code
Independent interdependent
Descriptive code
Independent interdependent
Asian symbols

.20 .01

.15 .04

British & american symbols

.05 .10

.01 .13

Neutral symbols

.17 .02

.02 .18

Cultural groups


Current study addresses the hypothesis that cross-cultural symbols may be used to manipulate self-construal. Specifically, experiments will investigate the assumptions of situational self paradigm (trafimow et al. 1991, singelis, 1994) in concept of cultural symbols. If the expected results will be obtained by priming with symbols for both groups (asian and british), we may than conclude that self is not only determined culturally but also determined by situational factors. Thus, self may shift between two dimensions in case of incongruent concept. Up to date, studies on such kind of methods to manipulate self-construal were conducted generally with samples within a single background (trafimow & ybarra, 1998, adaval & rashmi, 2001). By extending the circumstances, current study will combine cross-cultural symbols and different cultural backgrounds simultaneously to approach a comparison between different natures of self-construal.

Moreover, although an extra-cultural study on bicultural individuals proved the notion of situational self by using icons (alter & kwan, 2009) on a decision making task, there is no direct studies into self-construal on bicultural individuals. Hence, current study will also extend the assumptions to a global degree. On the other hand, it is not clear that whether an interaction effect will be obtained as a result. The literature on this domain is highly mixed. However, it seems that interaction effect is contingent upon the dependent variable. Rather than focusing on this effect, current study weights the probability of a main effect. With the validation of the current thesis, study will provide a new method for further researchers to manipulate the self-construal.

In final consideration, the study may be limited to generalize the anticipated results. Since, only explicit stimuli will be used as priming materials. Whether different results may be obtained after a subliminal exposure of symbols is unknown. It will be fruitful to test the assumption with an implicit task such provides subliminal representations of symbols.

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